April 08, 2020

Collins’ staff to hear concerns in Calais

CALAIS – The senator is sending her staff to talk about border issues, and they probably will get an earful.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ staff will be in this border community at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, at Bernardini’s Restaurant.

Long delays at the border and a federal plan to implement passports for American’s returning to their own country from Canada has a lot of people in this border community suffering from acid reflux.

Up until Sept. 11, crossing into the U.S. was as simple as saying “hi” to the U.S. Customs officer, no more.

For a time it looked like federal laws would force people who for years considered the border nothing more than a slight irritation to get passports.

But cooler heads prevailed, and implementation of passports or tamper-resistant identification cards has been delayed. It costs nearly $100 for a passport, a price that many Calais residents said they couldn’t afford.

House and Senate lawmakers agreed to push back the passport program by 17 months, saying they want to make sure new ID cards being developed by the Bush administration will better secure borders against terrorists without slowing legitimate travelers from Canada and Mexico. The new IDs will be required for Americans and all others entering the U.S.

But people who come into the country by airplane or cruise ship still will have to have a passport as of Jan. 8, 2007, including U.S. citizens.

Two bridges, the downtown Ferry Point Bridge and the Milltown Bridge near the city’s Industrial Park, serve Calais and neighboring St. Stephen, New Brunswick.

Plans are in the works to build a $100 million bridge near Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge on Route 1. The new bridge would allow traffic to bypass the downtowns in St. Stephen and Calais and would free the streets for shoppers.

This summer, traffic was a problem at the border as Americans and visitors entering the country from Canada found themselves waiting up to two hours to get through U.S. Customs.

When delays were the longest was usually when federal officers were asking to see driver’s licenses or identification cards.

They then entered in the person’s name and other information to a data system. Travelers who encountered an agent with limited typing skills faced an excruciating wait.

The border crackdown was wrapped up in an overall $34.8 billion spending plan for the Homeland Security Department.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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